UK’s Jordan Jones says he’s matured on the football field
It will be a quiet end to Jordan Jones’ Kentucky career.
The oft-discussed — sometimes for reasons the senior and his coaches would not prefer — linebacker will not play in the Citrus Bowl, a UK spokesman confirmed Tuesday. The only reason given was Jones was declared ineligible.
The news initially was reported on Kentucky Sports Radio.
The senior from Youngstown, Ohio, has played in 42 career games with 33 starts and has 251 career tackles, including 28.5 for loss and 7.5 quarterback sacks and 14 hurries. He led the team in tackles his sophomore season with 109, including 15.5 for loss.
Jones is a player with a high motor that has sometimes gotten him in trouble with his coach, including an incident to start last season where he spit and cursed at fans at Southern Mississippi.
In the 2017 regular-season finale against Louisville at Kroger Field, Jones was part of a scuffle with then-U of L quarterback Lamar Jackson that led to multiple personal foul penalties.
Before Senior Day this season, Kentucky’s coach said he was proud of how Jones had handled himself in his final season.
“It’s always week-to-week now with him,” Coach Mark Stoops joked in November. “I always tell you you’ve got every seven days to prove yourself around here, but Jordan is the same way. So, I have a few conversations with him weekly, but I am very proud of him.”
And while some coaches might have dismissed Jones after incidents like that, Stoops said he didn’t want to quit on the linebacker.
“The hard thing to do is continue to work with them every day and help him and not give up on him and not quit on him,” Stoops said.
Jones played in the last four games of the season with a broken hand, but had improved and been cleared to play in the bowl game as of Friday when Stoops met with the media.
This season, the senior was fifth on the team in tackles with 68, including 5.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He had both a recovered and forced fumble in the first quarter against South Carolina.
The most recently released Kentucky depth chart put out before the season finale versus Louisville lists true freshmen Deandre Square and Chris Oats as Jones’ backups at weakside linebacker. Oats also is listed as Kash Daniel’s backup at middle linebacker.
Oats has cross-trained at both inside linebacker spots, defensive coordinator Matt House said. Both true freshmen played in all 12 games this season with Square finishing with 29 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and Oats adding 24 tackles, including three for loss and two sacks to go with both a forced and recovered fumble.
There’s some pressure on Oats and Square to perform, but it’s a good pressure, House said, adding that Jamin Davis is another player that will see expanded minutes on Jan. 1 after impressive bowl practices.
“It’d be different if they hadn’t played all season long, but both those guys have gotten game action against quality opponents in critical situations,” House said of the two freshmen. “So, excited to see them.”
Football is important to Oats and Square and House said it has shown in their growth this season.
“They’ve done a good job progressively playing smarter and playing more instinctive,” said House, who also is the inside linebackers coach. “We’ve just got two good young players in those two guys.”
It’s the second straight season that a starting linebacker has missed the Cats’ bowl game. Denzil Ware had to sit out the Music City Bowl in Nashville last season for what Stoops then called a “violation of team rules.” Ware eventually left the program as a graduate transfer and played this season at Jacksonville State.
It was later reported by the Courier-Journal that Ware took money from an agent.
No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State
When: 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1
Where: Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.